The Good Old Days? Music Hall and Remembrance Day…

Last week at the Cavendish Hospital in Buxton, and at the Riverside Ward at the Newholme Hospital, we looked at music hall and our favourite acts which had grown out of the variety theatres which flourished about the country from the mid nineteenth century, but had all but disappeared by the 1960s, when the British public became stuck to the small screens of their TVs.


Gracie Fields entertaining troops in World War Two

Gracie Fields entertaining troops in World War Two

The Good Old Days

New Mills had a music hall.
I’d always end up sitting behind a lady with a big hat.
For our delectation and delight, the compere would announce the next act
A wonky ventriloquist, too drunk to sit on his stool –
And that was just the puppet.
Then a down-to-earth lass would come on stage,
Singing a gutsy song, ‘The Pride of Our Alley’.
She was a fine figure of a girl, our darling Sally.
Someone would start smoking a pipe
There would be tobacco crumbs everywhere
All over the plush red seats that tipped up.
And then later, it got turned into a grubby cinema,
Closed, and forgotten forever.


At Stanton Day hospital, we started thinking about laying the memorial wreath at the plaque that commemorates the role that Newholme Hospital played in World War One, as an auxiliary hospital.

Remember to remember

Do the young remember to remember?
The fallen of the two World Wars,
Their great grandparents who fought in World War Two;
Made do, mended and sheltered,
From the bombs that wrecked the city streets.
Who remembers the female pilots, daring and clever?
The resistance helpers, who told no one of their bravery,
Just helped the hidden safely on their way.
And as the wars slip into the history,
There’s no one alive to tell their story.
Old, cracked voice recordings talking about the trenches.
Letters, postcards, artefacts from the past.
Their courage and suffering stretching back centuries,
And into the future, in strange lands and deserts.
We lay a wreath, to remember all wars.
In the hope that one day, all wars will end.

All is safely gathered in.

Last week at Cavendish and Newholme hospitals, we looked at harvest time. At Stanton Day hospital at Newholme, I took part in their harvest festival, reading a poem from the Dales Tales anthology, which features poems written and inspired by the hospital patients in my creative writing sessions. We enjoyed talking about this fruitful time of year and the possibilities it brings. Here are a few of the poems I wrote, inspired by tales of harvest and picking fruit.

Scrumping apples

Scrumping apples!

Harvest Time

Wintertime is coming –
We gather the harvest in:
Wheat and corn.
Celebrate by baking bread,
Making soup, boiling jam.
The fruit ripens,
And flowers fade,
After the harvest festival.
The children make hampers
For the altar display,
Excited about Halloween,
Dazzling fireworks,
Pumpkin pie and parkin.



Blackbirds love the rowan berries.
Rosehip syrup and soup or potage.
Blackberry jam, for making merry,
Picked from the field at the back of our cottage.
My wife made me pick blackberries all day.
She told me that I’d enjoy them yet.
Boiled up with sugar the old fashioned way.
The kids ate the jam before it was set.
Blackberry Liqueur (known as crème de mŭre)
Sloe gin and damson to give you a glow.
Well worth a risky scrumping adventure.
I got caught up a tree because I was too slow!


Harvest Festival at Stanton Day Hospital

On the table.
There are tiny apples from the tree outside.
Red like plums.
Very small, but sweet, and completely organic.
Sheaves of local wheat and barley.
Oranges, and bananas from Belper.
A box of chocolates.
We read the hymn,
All is safely gathered in
The words stick,
Contemplating the cycle of life.
The parable of the sower
Tells us that if we’re ready to listen, we’ll hear.
Our ideas might fall by the wayside,
Or might take root and do good in the world.
The events of life can take over and choke us.
But with the right support, we can grow.

A Perfect day in the Park

On Tuesday’s visit to Newholme Hospital (sadly my visit to Cavendish hospital was cancelled last week due to sickness on the ward), we talked about parks, and what would make our perfect day.

The two things go quite well together, don’t you think? A trip to the park can lift a sad day. Even when the weather isn’t great, a duck’s quack or the fresh rain on the leaves can change our mood for the better.

I seem to have developed an enthusiasm for rhyming couplets, so I hope you enjoy these catchy poems, inspired by the things we talked about in my sessions with staff, patients and volunteers.

Park Life

Feed the ducks on the boating lake –
Watch out for that cheeky drake!
The children paddling round and round,
Stay out until teatime- they’ll be brown!

Take a picnic- not too posh
Jam sandwiches and a bottle of squash.
But people watching cricket matches
Take fancy cakes and plastic wine glasses.

Try crown green bowling outside in the park,
Flat green bowling inside after dark.
Boules in France as a summer dusk falls,
Skittles echoing through the halls.

Seek a park with more thrills and spills
Nottingham’s Goose Fair fits your bill.
A huge gathering of fairs and shows.
Hundreds of stalls selling things that glow.

See strongmen, giants, and jumping fleas,
Huge vats of minted mushy peas.
Big wheels, waltzers, dodgem cars
Bring goldfish home in big jam jars.

Watch the leaves start to curl and wither,
It’s time for conkers: soaked in vinegar
Drill a hole and tie with a bit of string,
Let the conker wars begin!

Kick through golden drifts of autumn
Remember the pink spring of blossom
The home of the blackbird and the dove
Parks are where we play and love.

A perfect day…

No alarm clock to stop my snoozing.
A day to relax, do things that are amusing.
Waking up to find I’m still breathing.
Give thanks to the gift of life I’m receiving.

Every day I’m alive is unique and perfect –
My good health and mind I need to protect.
Walking the dog is a great way to start:
Fresh air and nature is good for my heart.

A day with the family coming to see me,
With no need to rush, sailing on the sea.
A leisurely drive through countryside France,
Climbing a mountain or having a dance.

Golf with friends and a drink or two,
Not having anything urgent to do.
Good company on a hot sunny day:
The times that we think of when skies are grey.

And when it rains or times are sad.
We can think of the wonderful times that we’ve had.